Kirsten Samuel
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Our CEO on trends for the coming year and her personal goals

As 2019 draws to a close, it is affirming to see that employee wellbeing continues to be an area of high strategic priority for many organisations. We’ve also seen many new organisations embark on their wellbeing journey this year - with more investment, resource and buy-in than ever before. As we look forward to 2020, our Founder and CEO, Kirsten Samuel, shares her thoughts on what we can expect to see more of next year and her personal wellbeing goals for the year ahead.

Kirsten’s predictions for 2020:

1) Less focus and time spent on building the business case and justifying ROI (the evidence is there and it stacks up!) and more focus on making a positive difference to employees lives, creating a great place to work, and that being reason enough. When employees write in to say they only came into work that day (in some cases, only got out of bed) because of the wellbeing session you were running, or that the mindfulness course you organised saved their life, you can’t put a price on that - and whether you spent £0.20 or £6.00 per employee on that initiative soon becomes irrelevant. You are making a difference. Of course ROI is important, but it needs to be considered in the wider context of what you are trying to achieve and not at the expense of what you could do. 

2) Mental health will remain a top priority.  Breaking the stigma of mental ill health is the journey we are on and whilst we have seen many brave and courageous leaders tell their story this year in the hope of inspiring others, there is still much work to be done: to raise awareness, provide education (particularly for line managers), ensure adequate support services and sign posting, and to achieve parity between mental and physical health. Much progress has been made over the last five years to shift the dial, but as our VUCA world continues to accelerate around us, so will mental health remain a top priority.

3) Increased focus on social responsibility and impact programmes. Effectively, “doing good.” Whether that is through a volunteering programme at work (Salesforce has one of the best examples I've seen of this) or looking at other CSR-related initiatives, to how you do business internally, this is an area that is becoming of increasing interest to us in our quest to save the planet and become better human beings. The opportunity and desire to make a positive social impact at work is on the rise and this is an attractive selling point to new hires, as well as all the evidence reporting that doing good is also beneficial to our mental health and overall wellbeing - personal growth and success feels meaningless if it has no purpose attached.

4) First there was mental health, then there was financial wellbeing. I would expect to see more kudos given to financial wellbeing in 2020 - already different life and career stage seminars are very popular and I’d expect to see organisations taking this to the next level and providing personalised 1-2-1 support and advice on all areas of finance - from budgeting, saving, debt management and planning for retirement. Might we see in the future organisations providing an in-house finance expert as we might have an in-house physiotherapist? After all, money worries is one of the biggest causes of distress and it can be a significant burden if it isn't addressed. The vast majority of UK employees are suffering from money worries (94%), with more than three quarters (77%) of employees saying that money worries impact them at work, according to new research from Close Brothers (Financial Wellbeing Index 2019)

5) In today’s multigenerational workforce (in some cases, 4 generations under one roof), employees are becoming more vocal about their needs and what they expect their company to offer in the way of wellbeing. Whilst a holistic wellbeing programme providing something for everyone is a great start, organisations would also do well to think about the complete employee wellbeing experience in terms of the different life stages and transitions that every individual will go through. From a new graduate coping with their first high-pressured job, to returning to work after maternity leave, going through menopause, to thinking about retirement. What meaningful initiatives would lend themselves well to supporting an individual's key life stages at work, as work-life integration becomes the norm.

As for my personal wellbeing goals for 2020 (I’m a believer in the power of 3):

  1. To get more energy. I recently found out via York Test Labs that I have a number of major food intolerances (despite not knowingly being symptomatic). So I can only assume that by omitting these from my diet for a short while, I might find myself with a load more energy that I didn’t know I was missing.
  2. To increase my mental and physical resilience. The power of exercise. As someone who has always loved being active, the last two years have been painfully difficult for me to consistently get back into anything post baby (I’ve lost my mojo!). So I’m determined that 2020 is the year that I break that cycle - focusing on my fitness is going to be a big priority for me, which I know will positively impact all areas of my life.
  3. To feed my soul. I am one of these people who struggle to switch off from work and require enforced creative activities to help me unwind. Next year my passion project is to dabble in a bit of song writing. Music is great soul food for me!